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We’re a little over a week into 2009 and for many, the highlights (or perhaps the lowlights) of 2008 were evident and far reaching beyond the epicenter of the problem in the United States. As discussed by many and not really our role as the type of publication we are, this is just simply something you can’t really avoid. However, with it came a shimmer of hope on a societal level with the election of Barack Obama, regardless of whether he can completely rectify the problems the global community is facing right now, it represents a true changing of the guard and one that hopefully won’t let down a world of watchers. From a HYPEBEAST perspective, more so then ever we’ve finally developed a strong grasp of our identity which hopefully will be apparent this year.
Along the way we’ve obviously stumbled but its something you live with whenever you try to take things to a new level. While many play the easy role of hating, we definitely found a number of great concepts and executions throughout the year. Nothing was perfect as it never as, yet looking back, 2008 won’t be a year where a retrospection will lead many to denounce what went down as the quality was genuinely there. Despite knowing our roots very well, our maturing tastes will inevitably result in a more diverse selection of content, something we’re confident will appeal to many of our readers as we move forward. Without further ado, here’s a selective breakdown of 2008 regarding sneakers, fashion and accessories and toys.
Kevin Ma’s take on sneakers for 2008 (Editor-in-Chief)
With the whole “sneaker culture” hitting lows in 2007 due to the oversaturation of inferior products, 2008 left the door wide open for independent and smaller labels to be ushered in. So-called hyped sneakers from the big athletics companies were sitting on shelves a little longer as people looked to brands such as Visvim, Common Projects, CLAE and Pointer to occupy the real estate on their feet. It seemed as though the aforementioned brands despite sometimes higher pricetags were being sought on both aesthetics and quality. However, brands such as Converse and Vans with lower price points also seemed to enjoy great success. Despite having a very simple look to them, these continued to be a hot commodity as people would look to present themselves on much simpler terms relative to previous years. Thanks to the marketing prowess of one Kanye West as well as Lil’ Wayne, the high-top sneaker enjoyed a massive renaissance which as a by-product propelled Supra’s Skytop to the top of the charts, nevertheless this trend is not something I anticipate to hold its weight through 2009. Some of the stand-out releases for this year included Nike’s 1World Air Force project, the adidas Originals by Originals (although releasing in 2009) and the fan-favorite Proper x Vans holiday collection. Among the few pairs of shoes I bought this year, the Visvim Kiefers were the one that seemed to receive the most airplay for its easy to match demeanor. Having taken a downturn in 2007 only to see a revival in 2008, this sets up 2009 as what we feel will be a great year for the footwear industry.
Eugene Kan’s take on sneakers for 2008 (Managing Editor)
In what was sort of touched upon in the introduction, this year presented itself as a decent year for footwear in my eyes. Although the initial thoughts of hybrids left a weird taste in the mouth like many, evidently if you continually put out product after product with a hybrid theme you’re bound to hit some decent shoes; However I still felt the bad outweighed the good. To me the Air Max Current was the pinnacle of hybrids as it combined one of the most recognizable profiles and aesthetics for sneakers out there with a new updated outsole which brought together both a great look and performance to boot. The aZX project from adidas was something I thought had the chance to turn uglywith so many releases at each turn, but perhaps chalk it up to the relatively unfamiliar nature of many of the ZX shoes, the final result was great and provided a new retro favorite for me with the ZX 7000 – 9000. Not to leave out a big player, Converse had a strong year as well showing that despite having 100 years of releases behind them, they still had the ability to put forth solid products and looked to the right people for collaborative ventures. Beyond the big players, Visvim once again pushed the boundaries and took things to all new heights. Their Folk series was undoubtedly the first taste of retail footwear north of $350 USD for some and I feel disappointed few. Without the flashes of technical brand name fabrics, Hiroki Nakamura was able to source out natural materials to put forth some prized footwear. Deserving a mention was the ways in which designer sneakers from high fashion houses were received. Despite being priced well out of the budget of many, the allure of seeing them on the feet of their favorite stars seemed to be enough to incite a great deal of interest. Last year saw an expansion of classics as many branched out beyond their retro sneakers to look into a number of traditional staples. Most people who have been paying attention know that the likes of Red Wings, Danner, Clarks, Russell etc have all enjoyed a much harder look then previous years.
Luis Ruano’s take on sneakers for 2008 (Editor)
2008 brought to light another spectrum of the sneaker world that I hadn’t seen in sometime. Gone were the days of tongue stuffed wallet killers. As trends shifted to a more conservative manner, numerous companies set their foot down with a multitude of creative designs. One of my favorite footwear choices of the year came from legendary Converse. Although not the most comfortable of sneakers, a classic pair of all-stars were the remedy for an ailing budget. Projects from the (Red) campaign to the Century project showcased some of they’re more innovative ideas in years. Musicians such as Lupe Fiasco, designers John Varvatos and Thom Browne, shops like Undefeated and colette, labels Wood Wood and Staple, and even awesome designers in Jeff Hamada and Dr. Romanelli were in on the action full force. Nike’s implementation of their cutting edge Flywire technology cemented the brands elite status when it comes to sportswear innovation. Plus, the Marty McFly’s were bananas.
Kevin Ma’s take on fashion for 2008
While 2008 was more of a rebuilding year for sneakers and footwear in general, fashion on the other hand offered a great deal of excitement as smaller and previously unknown labels would make a strong case amongst the bigger dogs and move to the forefront. Despite having less familiarity with the high-fashion world, a lot of great brands entered my radar. And while the price points are really out of the league of many, myself included, just as high-fashion borrows from the streets there are some definite cues that could be taken in terms of styling and presentation. 10.Deep brought the heat this year with a solid collection each season and great presentation. The exuberance of Cassette Playa was something I developed a genuine appreciation for while my other favorites for 2008 included Deluxe, Head Porter Plus and Band of Outsiders. With the worst seemingly ahead of us, the days of slapping clip art onto t-shirts which we bought into in the past are long gone and hopefully through these difficult times, some great new designs can rise up.
Eugene Kan’s take on fashion for 2008
For me, the attention turned to contemporary American menswear coupled with various workwear/outdoor inspired looks as the highlight movement of the past year. Numerous brands which ironically were founded in the US saw their Japanese licenses flourish under these conditions. I feel that this particular trend towards these looks was a sentiment echoed by many experts and peers. Unlike all-over print hoodies, loud bold graphics, I don’t think many will look back with embarrassment in regards to the new developments in 2008. However, it all makes you wonder how long this will be sustained before we see a new push towards more colorful and less conservative designs. It has been argued that recessions or downturns in the economy suppress avant-garde and more liberal fashion in general, but coupling the current wave of conservative stylings with the undeniable hyper-acceleration the Internet provides, the forthcoming is a bit fuzzy. This year really piqued my interest in terms of technical outerwear as I always look to see what new developments are being initiated by companies such as Gore-Tex and Schoeller among others in terms of providing the ultimate in performance materials. Intelligent fabrics from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ Diaplex seen on the Futura Laboratories x Descente collaboration allowed us to become familiar with materials that can change its breathability based on ambient body temperature, effectively creating something that is both fascinating and inspiring all at once.
In terms of individual stand out brands, Hue and his brand Deluxe was among the most consistent performers. Despite a subdued aesthetic, his ability to incorporate a wealth of details in his pieces was anything but contrived and a true genuine effort. And while Bape for many years now has succumbed to an unfortunate brand image thanks to the proliferation of fake merchandise and its popularity in some circles, nevertheless the brand’s diversity presents itself as a great strength. It’s true that on the level of visibility, Bape will forever be synonymous for loud graphics and mulit-colored camos, yet a look deeper provides a further range of products which in its often subdued and un-branded state could definitely sneak itself into many wardrobes. All in all as we move forward, I feel that the future will focus on the keyword of diversity. There will be no pigeon-holing of styles and in turn there won’t be any problems wearing Nikes or adidas’ one day with your quintessential 501-esque cut denim and your favorite streetwear brand tee only to turn things completely upside down the next day with a much more fitted pair of chinos, Red Wings 875s and a cableknit sweater.
Luis Ruano’s take on fashion on 2008
As a majority of the old school crowd grows a year older, our tastes in fashion naturally progress. This past year was definitely a step into another realm of the streetwear culture. Some of our favorite brand’s began expanding their arsenal further into more complex aesthetics. Muted color tones became crowd pleasers and a newfound appreciation for cut-and-sew garments was at a pinnacle. The fusion between streetwear and hi-end fashion was a re-occurring theme amongst a pleasant amount of Americana-influenced Japanese labels. In return these labels gave the American culture a newfound appreciation for international trends and attention to detail. Unmatched in their approach towards fashion this year, I gave my nod to the adidas Originals camp as my favorite fashion brand of 2008. Collaborations alongside Kazuki Kuraishi, Jeremy Scott and Alyasha Moore elevated their status in the sportswear genre and fused each designers perspective into an articulate brand of premium product. Having already seen a preview of their 2009 range of goods, this year looks like another interesting one for the three striped brand.
Kevin Ma’s take on everything else for 2008
A number of interesting Chinese artists were able to enter the big stage in 2008. A far cry from the days of offering art reproduction of already established masterpieces, we are in the midst of seeing a new cultural hotbed of contemporary art emerge. With KAWS on fire in 2008, artists such as Yue Ming Jun were able to develop a stronger worldwide fan base with their Companion collaboration. Some of my favorite toys this past year were unfortunately priced out of my collection including the sexy wooden Bearbricks and the SiLLY THING x Medicom Toy The Beatles Kubrick set. From a bias point of view, the 3G iPhone was my top pick of the year and although a true QWERTY keyboard will probably beat me in a typing contest, the whole package from the software and apps to the general aesthetic of the phone is something that will destroy everything else. Oh and thanks to Gmail, Google Reader and Wordpress, without them, 2008 would have been a massive uphill battle.
Eugene Kan’s take on everything else for 2008
I think this segment always garners the most interest. Maybe for the vast number of products that fall under this group, it allows for the most fun based its real lack of expectation. I saw some interesting pieces this year and despite (and sorry to beat a dead horse) the great deal of fitted caps and G-Shocks, there was still some good solid designs.
Tonal was a dominate force in going about colors and Commonwealth’s tonal All C-ing Eye was sick as well as whiz showing exactly what you can do with matte black as your base color on their DW-6900 G-Shock. The rest of my favorite picks were rooted in objects and products that really are in a league of their own with few parallels which really left you in awe. Examples included Flight Club’s collabos with Spalding and the Kermit Kubrick with Supreme. Capping things off, the HYPEBEAST trucker with Subcrew was something that we knew wasn’t going to fly with lots of North American cats for the unfortunate circumstances laid by the likes of Von Dutch a few years ago and the powergrip of the fitted cap, but it carries a different connotation in Asia. The whole project essentially kicked off our three year anniversary and it couldn’t haven’t been better in terms of coming out exactly as we had hoped for.
Luis Ruano’s take on everything else for 2008
Although New Era collaborations were off the chart in 2008, I found an appreciation for the way companies managed to put their own flavor on classic headwear pieces like the trucker hat. Two different styles stood out above the rest including a well executed tonal effort from DIVISION and our very own 3 year collaboration project with Subcrew. Keeping in tune with my admiration for duffels/messenger bags, MHI took the cake with their solid army green military collection alongside Nike’s equally impressive ACG Pendleton lineup.